« PreviousContinue »
must be confessed that the picture is overcharged; and perhaps in no part of the work is more exceptionable matter to be found, than in the passages on this subject.
Our fathers talk
The author here assumes it as a fact, that " a dismal change" in the climate has taken place, when it would have served the purposes of both truth and poetry better, to have corrected a vulgar prejudice, and illustrated that interesting operation of mind, by which "our fathers talk" of the days of their youth, as days when all nature smiled around them.
"The brooding elements,
This, it must be confessed, is very genuine bombast.
The colours, in which Dr. Armstrong has painted the English climate, are so greatly exaggerated, as to have sometimes suggested a doubt, whether it was really the English climate which the Doctor had in his mind's eye at the time; that climate so appropriately invoked by his friend and countryman Thomson, by the epithet of " merciful."-Looking into the "Beauties of Scotland," something extremely like a solution of this doubt has presented itself, and which, if correct, will afford a striking example of the influence of early impressions on the mind.
The topographist, describing the banks of the Liddel, Armstrong's native stream, previous to its junction with another river, called the Hermitage, says, "this part of the country is mountainous, high, cold and moist, and lies under the thick and solitary gloom of continual fogs."
Let us contrast this with what Armstrong says of England.
Steep'd in continual rains, or with raw fogs
The descriptions we see are the same, without even a single circumstance of variation. Is it unfair then, to conclude that they were derived from the same source, and that when Armstrong thought he was describing England, he was only recording his recollections of the scenery of his youth? N. J.
JOHN OGILVIE, D.D. was the son of the Reverend Mr. Ogilvie, one of the ministers of Aberdeen. He was born about the year 1733, and educated at the Marischal college, Aberdeen. He qualified himself with very little difficulty for the church, and obtained a license to preach long before he was acknowledged by that tuneful fraternity, among whom he seems to have been most ambitious to be enrolled.
About the period, at which Dr. Ogilvie began to write verses, there were in Scotland several of the profession of which he was a member, who were inspired, either by the poetical spirit, or the spirit of reforming the abuses which had crept in upon genius; and amongst those, Ogilvie took his station, destined both to aid, in giving refinement to the morality of the age, and in adding to the treasures of the higher departments of literature.
Dr. Ogilvie officiated as minister of Midmar, in the county of Aberdeen, from the year 1759, up to a late period of his life, having never hazarded his licence to preach by writing for the stage; an act for which other distinguished persons have been punished in consequence of the general persuasion, that the most effectual mode of raising disgust at the grossness of the dramatic exhibitions of earlier days,
is by writing or preaching against them, and not by introducing to the public, in their theatres, the purest images of the passions.
The literary works which he produced during this period, were, however, extremely numerous. The events of his life, indeed, are nothing but a succession of appearances in prose or rhyme. In 1758, he published the Day of Judgement, a Poem; in 1759, another edition of the Day of Judgement corrected, with an Ode to Melancholy, Ode on Sleep, Ode on Time, Lines to the Memory of Mr. H. M. an Elegy, Lines to the Memory of the late pious and ingenious Mr. Harvey, with a paraphrase of the third chapter of Habbakuk; in 1762, Poems on several subjects, to which was prefixed, an Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients, in two letters, inscribed to the Right Hon. James Lord Deskfoord; in 1763, Providence, an Allegorical Poem, in three books; in 1765, Solitude, or the Elysium of the Poets, a Vision, to which was subjoined an Elegy; in 1769, Paradise, a Poem, and two volumes of Poems on several subjects; in 1777, Rona, a Poem; in 1774, Philosophical and Critical Observations on the nature, characters, and various species of composition; in 1783, an enquiry into the causes of the Infidelity and Scepticism of the Times; in 1793, the Theology of Plato, compared with the principles of the Oriental and Grecian Philosophy; in 1801, Britannia, an Epic Poem, in twenty books, to which was prefixed a Critical Dissertation on Epic Machinery; and in 1802, an Examination of the Evidence from Prophecy, in behalf of the Christian Religion.
Dr. Ogilvie closed a long life, devoted to literary pursuits, and to the faithful discharge of his duties as a Christian minister, in the year 1814, and 81st of his age.
In speaking of the literary character of Dr. Ogilvie, the first thing that must strike every one is the vast disparity between the quantity he has written, and the degree of celebrity which he has acquired. The name is scarcely known in poetry, and in prose still less; notwithstanding the pile of volumes which attests the pains taken to raise it into notice.
It is difficult to imagine, that while a Beattie, a Reid, a Blacklock, and many others of the same æra with Ogilvie, have obtained their due meed of praise, such neglect could have been the portion of genius deserving of a better fate. It is unquestionably true, however, that Ogilvie was a man of very great genius, and that his works shew it. Are the public then to blame, that they have suffered them to fall into such obscurity? This it would be vain to affirm, unless it could be accompanied with some hope of seeing them yet read, of which it must be confessed there is no hope. The truth is, that the public were not to blame. Ogilvie, with powers far above the common order, did not know how to use them with effect. He was an able man, lost. His intellectual wealth and industry were wasted in huge and unhappy speculations. Of all his books, there is not one which, as a whole, can be expected to please the general reader. Noble sentiments, brilliant conceptions, and poetic graces, may be culled in profusion from the mass; but there is no one production in which they so predominate (if we except